Posts tagged: Tim Erixon

Thoughts on Rangers (Impressive) First Pre Season Roster

All the beat writers have announced the Rangers roster for the pre-season opener in Albany tomorrow against the basically bankrupt Devils. If you haven’t already seen it, here it is:

Goal: Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot

Defense: Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Brendan Bell, Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath

Forwards: Sean Avery, Brandon Dubinsky, Dale Weise, Andre Deveaux, John Mitchell, Erik Christensen, Artem Anisimov, J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas, Ryan Bourque, Shane McColgan, Carl Hagelin

My first impression is one of excitement. The team going head to head with the Devils tomorrow has a ton of young talent on show with Christian Thomas, Carl Hagelin, JT Miller, Ryan Bourque and Tim Erixon. However, the young talent can relax because they’ll be playing in front of Henrik Lundqvist (at least to begin with) while there is also plenty of NHL experience among the skaters with Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery and Artem Anisimov leading the way for the veterans.

It’s when looking at the ‘veterans’ where it gets most exciting as even the veterans in this line-up (Bell, Eminger and Mitchell withstanding, to an extent) are some of the young Rangers core emphasising just how young and talented the Rangers franchise is from top to bottom.

Line’s would be hard to gauge and probably isn’t worth over analysing at this stage because the majority of the roster haven’t played together before. Dubinsky and Anisimov for example may be teamed together as they have been previously but may be split to provide some veteran leadership for some of the kids. Regardless though, there’s a ton of exciting possibilities to look forward to for tomorrow’s game.

A few players to watch: Watch out for Carl Hagelin and his skating ability while the clock really starts ticking for players such as Dale Weise, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen and Brendan Bell even though it ticks in different ways for each player. Weise and Christensen in particular are playing for their immediate NHL futures.

Quick note; as Andrew Gross acknowledges in his blog the first cuts from camp will be made after the Friday pre-season game in Newark, against the Devils once again. 

Training Camp Full of Questions

Training Camp Is Here.  Training camp starts today and day 1 is the day that all the players fear the most. As some of the beat writers have already discussed, day one is basically ‘The Test’. It’s where Coach Tortorella runs his players in to the ground. Torts’ camps are legendary and it all begins with the first day. That said, training camp is about so much more for the team than just fitness. Here are a few things that are worth monitoring going through camp.

How many rookies will force their way on to the roster?

The Rangers camp will be different this year because of the European trip.  It affects how many players the Rangers take to Europe with them and could influence how many rookies/prospects have a legitimate chance to make the team from the outset. Tim Erixon seems to have a spot to lose; he’d have to be seriously outplayed by at least 2 players or show that he isn’t physically ready for a Torts camp.

Carl Hagelin has a legitimate chance to make his Rangers debut in his homeland too. He showed skill and great speed in Traverse but his immediate future may be tied to the upcoming camp performances of Christensen and Avery.

The dark horse, which I have maintained all along, is Ryan Bourque. Bourque remained relatively healthy last season and followed up that with a good, if not great Traverse City tourney. He displayed speed and a lot of skill to go with his undoubted team first attitude and terrific work ethic. He seems an ideal option if the Rangers insist on going younger in the bottom 6.

Beyond the Swedes and the Hall of Famer’s son, it would take a remarkable training camp for another rookie to force his way on to the plane to Sweden. The Rangers have a ton of depth but not a lot of vacancies (despite a lot of talent developing in the system) so aren’t likely to rush any prospects unless their play demands promotion.

Join us after the jump for plenty more camp questions.

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Musings: Busy Rangers Week Edition

It’s Thursday and that mean’s Musings. Following up on a pretty busy week in Ranger land, let’s get things going.

Ryan Callahan: New York Rangers captain. Sounds good doesn’t it? In another example of the organisation simply doing the right thing (they’ve been doing it for a while now) the Rangers have a home grown leader and one that is immensely easy to root for.

The most annoying part of Traverse City? I haven’t watched a single second of any game. I can’t get MSG coverage in the UK and for some odd reason highlight packages appear impossible to find. Anyone have any access to some?

Having said all that I have obviously followed the scores, the coverage on the blogs and have been impressed with what I have read. I love the fact this franchise of ours is blessed with serious talent and it’s now being seen in Rangers red, white and blue.

Christian Thomas – as good as advertised?

Tim Erixon I: is a great pick-up and is another example of the great work (in recent seasons) of Glen Sather. Yes, Mr Sather has a long way to go before being loved and it might take a Cup win in NY for him to get some fan-love but there’s no denying Sather has done well recently. Erixon Jr is further testament to the great foundation being set in New York.

Tim Erixon II: You just read the name of the Rangers rookie of the year 2011-2012.

Let’s play guess: How many players from the Traverse City roster do you all think will represent the Rangers this season? I think 3 will make their Rangers’ debuts this season with a possible fourth, dependant on how he starts his season with the Whale. The fourth? Blake Parlett. The three I’m confident of? Bourque, Hagelin and obviously Erixon.

Hate to say I told you so: I talked up Ryan Bourque a few weeks ago as a prospect that could sneak on to the Rangers roster despite not garnering the same attention as others. Well, he’s done nothing but impress thus far, going on reports. Another middle of the draft steal for NYR?

The Rangers kick off their regular season in 3 weeks and 1 day. Stockholm here we come!

2nd place is not bad. You have to learn how to lose as well as how to win. That may sound like I am rolling off clichés but it is a fact. The Rangers lost 5-2 in last night’s final game against Buffalo but it’s still a productive tournament for the Rangers who now know a lot more about many of their prospects. Bear in mind that the Sabres also had a lot of players dressed in the game that will be pro’s this season, including a few players that already played AHL last year. Indeed, one of their scorers had a 40 point AHL season last season.

Many, many positives to take but it’s tough to hear Andrew Yogan has injured his arm again. He was starting to cement his status as a solid prospect after recovering from his injury last season. Fingers crossed it won’t keep him out nearly as long this year.

Just a point on the Callahan captaincy: am I being cynical but do you think the Rangers held off stating the obvious because awarding Cally the captaincy before his new deal would have given him much more financial negotiating power? A bargaining chip like a captaincy is worth a lot if you ask me. Timing of the announcement was thought about a lot, clearly.

I have to say I agree with Jess Rubenstein over JT Miller. I think Miller will benefit from a bigger schedule in the OHL than playing half the amount of games in college. While North Dakota is well known for it’s hockey program Miller clearly will benefit from game after game after game.

I am unbelievably excited to see the Rangers in Stockholm next month. Not just because I’ll be there at the games (an obvious reason for the excitement) but because of the way this franchise approaches games whether it be the kids or the big boys stepping on to the ice. The work rate and the effort the team gives game in-game out is intoxicating. It’s hard not to love the way this team plays hockey.

I’m going to finish today’s Musings with a prediction. The Rangers play two games in Stockholm and I’m saying now, they come back to New York 2-0. They play two good teams but I really fancy the Rangers to win both games. Thoughts?

Building the right way, in more than one way

It is clear that over the last few seasons Glen Sather, John Tortorella, and the organisation have stuck to a plan for the future. They have built from within, they have built from the back end out, and they have stuck with youth (for the most part) even in difficult times.

What may be overseen in the impressive and promising rebuild, is the fact that the Rangers have not only drafted well, but have also built to suit a game plan that highlights the physical nature of the Rangers’ squad for the present and the future.

Dare I say it, while Ryan Callahan plays the right way; he is not actually built the ‘right way’. However, looking at the potential roster, you may be surprised to see the Rangers are a very big and physically imposing side, at least on paper.

Tortorella likes to dump and chase, likes his side to play a game that requires a relentless forecheck, high levels of effort, and good play along the boards and in the corners. The Rangers physically, are well designed for this.

Looking purely at the five defenseman on the current roster, not a single one is listed at less than 6’1 or 203 lbs. Looking at the forwards, only Callahan and Sean Avery are listed under 6 feet tall, while only five forwards are listed under 200 lbs - this includes Avery, Callahan, and Brandon Prust. None of that trio will ever be considered ‘soft’ players.

Even looking among the prospects, there are many that boast a good physical presence. Whether it be Fogarty at 6’2, Kreider at 6’3 217lbs, or Yogan and Wilson at 6’3 and 6’2 respectively. There is plenty more size on the way through the system at forward. Indeed, guys like Hagelin and Zuccarello are rarities coming in at under 6 ft.

It gets even more pronounced on the defensive side. Tim Erixon is a big body, Dylan Mcilrath is physically a beast at 6’5, and Pavel Valentenko at 6’2 225lbs, has the physical side to go with his aggressive demeanour. In fact the defense is going to be big for a long time to come. Not a single defensive prospect under 26 (and there are 15 listed ‘in the system’) comes in under 6’ft.

The Rangers – at least on paper – are built the right way, in more than one way. They have had a concept in place and drafted to a plan. This is yet more evidence that the Rangers are doing things efficiently these days.

Erixon in the News

There’s been some Hockey News Love for a Ranger? Has the world ended? No, in fact there hasn’t been any love, but at least some solid exposure for one of the Rangers brightest prospects.

A regular column in THN  is ‘The Hot List’. Players that the magazine/website is looking forward to seeing enter the NHL. On August 30th the Hockey News included Tim Erixon in their latest offerings and as the feature player no less.

While the article doesn’t analyze or comment on Erixon’a readiness or upside, they do note that he played with other blue chip defensive prospects back in the SEL, such as David Rundbland and recent Devils pick Adam Larsson. Playing with such players as well as going on a deep playoff run in the SEL will have helped Erixon’s development enormously and the Rangers can only benefit from such experience. THN also made the (obvious) connection of Tim’s father Jan being a Ranger in their article.

While this article isn’t ground breaking, it is pretty good to see a Ranger make the ‘hot list’. After all, the Rangers have one of the better prospect pools in the league (say others, not just us). We should be reading these more often, but we won’t gripe too much – nice exposure for a good prospect.

Erixon’s chances? It appears he may have a place to lose. Brendan Bell is surely a depth signing/contingency plan; Eminger is a depth player and given all the hype about Erixon’s ‘NHL readiness’, it seems he’s ahead of the likes of Valentenko and Kundratek entering camp.  We shall see.

Needless to say, Erixon making the team from camp also gives the Sweden trip (for the opening weekend) another sub plot and surely would add to the likely local support for the Rangers given their Swedish flavour.

What If Erixon And Del Zotto Need More Time?

One of the biggest question marks heading into the new season for the Rangers has nothing to do with Brad Richards or Marian Gaborik.  It has to do with the bottom defense pairing. Right now, many assume that at least one of Michael Del Zotto or Tim Erixon will be ready and will make the team and won’t be a liability in any of the three zones.  The best case scenario is that they both succeed and make the team, making Steve Eminger a seventh defenseman.  But there is always the other scenario: that both need to hit the AHL a little before coming to the big club.

If that’s the case, then the only guarantee is that Steve Eminger will be on the bottom pairing.  After Eminger, the Rangers would have more question marks for the final defenseman than the Islanders do with their goaltending.  Pavel Valentenko –due to his great camp last year– and Brendan Bell –because he has already played in the NHL– would be the two favorites to serve as the final (or final two) defensemen.  However, nothing is given.  Remember when everyone guaranteed Ryan McDoangh a spot on opening night, only to be outplayed by his current defense partner?

But the candidate that not many will point to is the one that I am looking at to fill a void if these two aren’t ready: Tomas Kundratek.  He could be the most NHL ready of any of the Rangers AHL defensemen last year, with the exception of Wade Redden.  The 21 year old may not put up stellar numbers, but he has been a steady blue line presence for the Whale, who appears capable of handling NHL duties.

The first issue may be who makes the team, but the second issue is waivers, and it’s a pretty big issue.  Currently, none of the prospects and young players need to pass through waivers, but that will change 33 games into the season, if Del Zotto makes the team.  The minute Del Zotto plays his 33rd game this season, he will need to pass through waivers, which presents a whole other obstacle for the Rangers to overcome.  It also presents a very interesting scenario: If Del Zotto appears to be ready, but could benefit from more AHL time, do the Rangers send him down to avoid the waiver issue?

The question about the bottom pairing is one that may be floating under the radar because of Brad Richards and the hole(s) he fills, but it is a question that needs to be answered before the Rangers open the season in Sweden.  This may, in fact, be the biggest hole in the Rangers team this season.  With questions abound about not only the composition of the bottom pair, but waivers as well, Rangers brass may be forced to make a decision that will anger some fans.  But if John Tortorella’s track record tells us anything, it’s that he will give the kids every opportunity to play their way on to the roster.

The Bottom Defense Pair Competition

Barring any more moves by Glen Sather and company, the Rangers are looking at some intense competition for two of the final roster spots on the blue line come September.  Four spots are a given: Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Mike Sauer, and Ryan McDonagh.  One spot is all but a given (Steve Eminger), so if the Rangers decide to carry seven defensemen, that leaves two spots up for grabs.  We all know the names, but let’s break them down into three categories.

The Favorites

The favorites for those last two spots are relatively clear: Tim Erixon and Michael Del Zotto.  They are the ones that are the most NHL ready –or have prior NHL experience.  Both bring an aspect to the game that the Rangers don’t appear to have on the blue line in their ability to jump start the offense with an outlet pass.  Del Zotto has more offense to his game and may have the higher potential in that regard, but Erixon is likely to be the more rounded of the two in all three zones.  Expect them both to be on the opening night roster, even if they are both left handed shots.

The Dark Horses

This category is also limited to two names really, and they are Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek.  At first glance of the names, people will flock to Valentenko because he has that booming shot.  However, it was clear last preseason that he was not ready for the NHL.  Improvement in his skating and positioning were a must for Tenk.  Kundratek may not have that shot, but he is a sound defender who plays the game well in his own zone.  I would give Kundratek the upper hand here because he is currently better than Tenk in his own zone, and he is a much needed right handed shot.

The Possible But Unlikely

Only one name goes here: Dylan McIlrath.  McIlrath is just flat out mean, and would give the Rangers much needed toughness on the blue line.  Sauer can only do so much of the punishing on his own.  McIlrath not only needs to impress, but he needs to show he can win the Calder in order to be a serious contender for a roster spot this season.  In essence, he needs to do what Del Zotto did two years ago.  The Rangers won’t make that mistake twice though.  McIlrath is possible, but he won’t make the club this year.

If I had to put a ranking of those likely to make the roster, I would put Del Zotto at the front of the list with Erixon not far behind.  Kundratek would round out the top three, and to be honest, any one of them can win a roster spot over the others with a strong camp.  There is a big gap on my list between Kundratek and Valentenko, and an even bigger gap between Tenk and McIlrath.  Those kids are going to be battling hard for those last two spots.  Anything can happen.

If Del Zotto And Erixon Both Succeed, Does One Become Trade Bait?

The dog days of summer are almost done, and we are about six weeks away from preseason puck.  When that preseason arrives, most of the attention will be given to Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, and deservedly so.  While that combination is likely to be the most critical aspect of the Rangers success this coming season, there is another situation that is going to be interesting to monitor.  That situation is the competition between Michael Del Zotto and Tim Erixon for roster spots.

It is a given that the Rangers have five of the seven defensemen spots filled, with Steve Eminger likely filling as the seventh guy.  The fifth and sixth spots are up for grabs, but it is clear that Del Zotto and Erixon are the front runners for those spots.  Fans gave up on Del Zotto after a rough sophomore season, which still boggle me.  The kid is going to come into camp hungry for a spot and with a desire to prove that he can play this game at the professional level.

What Del Zotto brings to the table is the ability to jump start the offense with outlet passes to spring rushes.  His ability to make the pass is there, he just got too fancy last season.  The smart pass is the best pass, and as long as Del Zotto realizes this, he will succeed.  His defensive play was greatly improved, but it is still a weak point in his game.  But maybe that is what Del Zotto is: an offensive minded player who will be able to produce points, but lag behind on the defensive end.  We won’t know for sure yet, and the kid is still just 21 years old.  There is a lot of time for him to develop.

Erixon is probably the more steady and reliable of the two kids.  From everything I’ve read, he just seems to be confident with the puck and in his own end.  He may not put up the points the way Del Zotto can, but he will be more solid in the zone.  We ran a post about reasonable expectations for Erixon, so I don’t want to re-hash too much of that here.

Looking ahead, what if both meet and/or exceed expectations?  Is it possible that one becomes trade bait when someone like Dylan McIlrath is ready for the NHL?  What about Pavel Valentenko or Tomas Kundratek?  The Rangers have an abundance of promising young defensemen, of which they can package together for a solid winger.  I’m not saying they go ahead and do this, but the situation may present itself for the Rangers to part with one of their guys to better the team.

So if Del Zotto seems rejuvenated, and Erixon meets expectations, do the Rangers think long and hard about packaging one of them to solidify the forward core?  I think it’s definitely a possibility.  In Erixon, the Rangers have a bit of insurance in case Del Zotto stumbles again.  Having both is great, and having them both succeed is even better.  When the time comes to renew their contracts, it is going to be interesting to see how things unfold.  If they both succeed, it is one of those “problems” you are more than happy to have.

Reasonable Expectations: Tim Erixon

It may seem a bit premature to write a post about Tim Erixon, but many in Rangerland think that Erixon is destined to not only suit up for the Rangers in October, but play a significant role and be a stud defenseman.  We here at BSB are the eternal optimists, but we are also realistic, and believe in tempering expectations.  So let’s look at how Erixon fits into the Rangers, and what we can really expect from him.

The 20 year old defenseman just finished his second season with the Skelleftea HC of the Swedish Elite League.  In those two years (93 games), Erixon netted 12 goals and 25 assists, to go with his 84 PIMs and a -5 rating.  This past season was a definite improvement on his last, where he put together a line of 7-19-24 with 44 PIMs and a -3 rating.  It wasn’t until the playoffs that Erixon really shined, where in 18 games he put up eight points (3-5-8) and 12 PIMs.

So with the stats out of the way, let’s realize two things about the SEL: it is notoriously low scoring, and it is played on an international sized rink.  What exactly does that mean? Well, the notoriously low scoring SEL means defensemen hone in on their play in their own zone, which is the toughest part of the game to develop.  But, they also have more time to handle the puck with the increased rink size.

Looking ahead to his North American career, Erixon is likely to be NHL ready, that part is a given.  However, it is tough to really say he is going to be a stud right away.  The kid is going to be good, but let’s be careful and not anoint him as the next Brian Leetch just yet.  At 20 years old, he is still a kid.  Kid’s struggle –for the most part– and are generally inconsistent.  This especially holds true for youngsters learning their craft on a smaller rink.

Those expecting Erixon to put up 30 points may be extremely disappointed.  With two solid lines of defense already established, Erixon will likely not get as much playing time as any of the top four, and this will effect his point production.  Sure, he will see time on the powerplay, but his spot with the extra man is still up for grabs.  The only given on the powerplay is that Brad Richards will anchor the top unit.  The other three point spots are still up for grabs.

Realistically, it is fair expct Erixon to be generally solid in his end, but relatively inconsistent offensively.  Less time to react on a smaller rink has a larger effect than most realize.  That said, I don’t think 15-20 points is really out of the realm of possibility for Erixon, especially if he shows he belongs on the top powerplay unit with Richards.  Then again, if he struggles a bit, he could fall in the 10-15 point range.  Erixon should be judged on his ability to make the smart first pass and to play solidly in his own zone.  If that works for him, then the production will come in the following years as he gains confidence.

Which Rangers Prospect Has Greatest Expectancy Next Season

While Evgeny Grachev wasn’t the top rated Rangers prospect last season he was perhaps, given all the circumstances surrounding him (and his career progression – or lack of it) the one player with the most eyes on him among media and fans alike. Grachev was (and still is, until the new season draws closer) our recent most ‘Prospect Watch’ player on the website – see the Grachev Watch box.

From being drafted to dominating in the OHL to making a quick ascent to the pro ranks many, many fans expected Grachev to quickly establish himself in the system and indeed, as a Ranger. Prospect websites were touting him a blue chip prospect and he was routinely expected to firm up a place in the NHL, but that never happened. Today, Grachev is no longer a Ranger and perhaps a victim of the burden of expectancy.

Next season the Rangers have numerous prospects potentially taking the next step. Where those next steps take them however – at this stage – is anyone’s guess. Among the prospects with a ton of expectancy surrounding them are Swedish pair Carl Hagelin and Tim Erixon (straight to NYC?), as well as prospects JT Miller (given the controversy surrounding his league move), Oscar Lindberg, AHL mainstay Dale Weise (last chance saloon?) and WJC stars Jesper Fasth and Chris Kreider.

Which player will be most closely watched? Which prospect do you want Blue Seat Blogs to follow the most? –using the prospect watch section. You may be most intrigued by recent draftees like Shane McColgan (can he get back to the level which had him tabbed as a first rounder) or Mike St Croix and/or Steve Fogarty.

The Rangers are in a great situation these days. The above named group of prospects are just a small handful of Rangers prospects worth monitoring over the coming season. The Rangers are blessed with depth in almost every position both at the NHL level and below. We’ll be keeping tabs on all the Rangers prospects including Dylan McIlrath and Ryan Bourque as well. Just let us know who you’re most interested in the comments section. Have at it, we’ll check in a few times ahead of training camp.